I eat the Paleo (Primal, Whole 30) diet.
This is because:
- it makes me feel a lot better about myself; I am less sluggish, lighter and it beats the bloat,
- processed foods and ready meals tend to set off my IBS and contain things I don’t understand; and,
- I (think) it makes my dermatitis and rosacea better, well at least it reduces flare ups.
However I can admit that Paleo can be a total hassle (i’ve ranted about this before) but now I’ve been eating and cooking the diet for a few months and i’ve settled in to it a lot more I thought i’d write a guide to Paleo & my favourite Paleo hacks and tips. Btw before you read this, please please please remember 1) I am not a nutritionist and 2) I have no body hang ups or pre-conditions that make me treat food in an unusual way. This is my interpretation of a diet that hasn’t been scientifically proven, so please interpret things your own way. Mine is not necessarily the best!
Eat paleo at least 80% of the time…. and eat a balanced diet at all times
Don’t stress yourself, this is not a diet where you will be counting calories, so slipping up (or purposely cheating) is ok. Obviously if you are removing gluten, dairy or any other allergen because you are allergic to them or have a digestive disease, then don’t eat them. Eating 80% healthy and then stuffing yourself with overindulgence the other 20% is not a good way to approach food however you look at it. A glass of red, proper 70% chocolate and milk in a single coffee to get you going in the morning is not going to ruin everything. Keeping things in balance will.
Don’t panic about not having enough starchy carbohydrates
Paleo is a low carb – high protein diet; which means no bread, white potatoes, pasta, rice, lentils, couscous etc… basically you aren’t allowed to eat anything which has been cultivated, or made from cultivated products. If like me you used to live on sandwiches, potatoes (or pasta) going paleo will mean at first you will miss stodge. What this really means in nutrient terms is that you are cutting out starchy foods which give you energy (plus there is nothing to soak up lovely sauces!) and your body will crave them.
However, there are lots of vegetables that that are just as good in starch terms and that will fill you up just as well:
- roast veg is the easiest to cook – just bung a mix of carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potato, beetroot or squash in the oven for 30 minutes.
- mash up whatever you can – either as a side dish or as a topping for mince dishes – you can use cauliflower, sweet potato, celeric, or carrot and swede.
- Make a gratin – squash works well with this as it keep some bite. I won’t tell anyone if you use a little full fat cream or why not try coconut cream.
- make an alternative – spiralize veg such as sweet potatoes for noodles and grind up cauliflower and fry off for rice (though this is not my favourite to be honest but a lot of people seem to love it by the amount of recipes there are on pinterest)
- add spice – roast butternut squash with cumin makes an excellent side to curry dishes, plantains also work well if you are cooking anything north african.
Choose the right type of protein
Once you’ve got over the fact that a simple bowl of pasta is now a treat, and have stopped focusing on the carbs you will find that most paleo recipes call for a lot of meat; especially bacon. Now I don’t like to eat meat everyday as it makes life very expensive and eating lots of meat isn’t exactly balanced in terms of fats and with bacon, lots of salt. We can’t all afford grass-fed beef from the best farm in the Scottish Highlands either.
So for balence, replace meat with fish, or to keep up the protein on meat-free days work in more eggs (try frittata, or crustless quiches) eat avocado with everything (it is a good fat – promise!) and never let your fridge be without kale & spinach. Saute kale with onions, red pepper or chilli flakes and red wine vinegar, or bake it in the oven as crisps.
Pork roulade stuffed with spinach, bacon and mushrooms
Keep an eye on what vegetables you are eating
All the vegetables I have mentioned above are paleo, but if you really want to go the whole hog you need to cut out legumes as well. A legume is the fruit or seed of a plant and they aren’t Paleo as they contain toxic anti-nutrients called lectins and phytic acid. Lectins are blamed for the newest craze in tummy problems, the leaky gut (i’m not yet a believer) and phytic acids can prevent you absorbing minerals.
I’m not 100% convinced by this, and I do miss a chilli without kidney beans so I do occasionally use them. Alone they don’t contain enough bad stuff to cause me problems – its just that you replace refined carbs with beans (or lentils etc) to bulk up that you start consuming larger quantities. In general, to be Paleo, avoid any form of beans, including french beans, mange tout, and chick peas.
Do or don’t do dairy – you decide
So dairy isn’t Paleo. We didn’t milk cows back when the world was full of wild game; we just shot it with bows instead. But we do need milk and other dairy products as part of a healthy diet. As I think Paleo man would have milked a goat or two if they’d thought about it, I don’t totally cut dairy out. However, I do place it fully in my 20%, so I have whole milk, cream and good cheese as a treat. The rest of the time if I can substitute dairy with coconut milk I will. I have yet to go down the ghee route, although a lot of Paleo sites sing the virtue of clarified butter.
Don’t sweat the sweet stuff
Paleo recipes don’t call for sugar to be added so going on Paleo will mean you cut a lot of sugar out straight away; unlike all the hidden sugar in ready meals. However if you cook a lot of Asian food then raw honey is your friend. Go for the best you can afford to buy and use a little when you need a sticky sauce. The darker and unrefined the sugar the better. Same for chocolate. As i said at the start, a few squares won’t kill the diet stone dead. As for dessert, paleo baking is pretty crap, so unless you are allergic to certain ingredients, just eat your cake and enjoy it.
So what can you eat?
Well, i’m contantly cooking new Paleo recipes, so follow my Paleo Pinterest boards for ideas. My instagram is also a source of both great and crazy (but still tasty) disasters like this recent fritatta!
Are you cooking Paleo? Let me know!
Mrs S x